How Did Your Choice of Major Prepare You For Grad School?

What did you study when you were an undergrad? Just math? Math and physics, perhaps, or math and computer science? Maybe you combined seemingly unrelated but potentially complementary fields, like math and biology, in the hopes of getting into one of the up-and-coming interdisciplinary fields like biostatistics. No matter what you studied, you probably found both that you had a few gaps in your education you hadn’t anticipated, and that your secondary field helped prepare you in ways you couldn’t have expected.

I studied creative writing and mathematics when I was in college. Spending so much time in the English Department did leave me missing a few of the classes most math majors take, and I’ve had to incorporate some undergrad coursework, such as intro computer science, into my master’s program to make up for it. On the other hand, I found that writing proofs is, surprisingly, not that different from writing poetry. Being concise and specific is important to the aesthetic of both disciplines, and either way you’re likely to go through multiple drafts before you find precisely the right wording. There is an internal logic to a poem or a story, much as there is an inevitability to the next step of a proof. Even though concentrating wholly on math might have given me a more straightforward preparation for grad school, I think taking a more circuitous route and learning to make connections between disciplines has been a really valuable experience of its own.

How has what you studied as an undergrad affected your continuing education? If you have any interesting stories, feel free to share them in the comments.

About Maya Sharma

Maya Sharma is studying for her MS in mathematics at Loyola University Chicago.
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